Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge has a very specific target audience: people who are interested in history, fashion and the retail business. I happen to be one of those people, I read the Stanley Marcus book Minding the Store for pleasure while I was a junior in college. I’d recommend Mr. Selfridge over Mr. Marcus if you enjoy a little scandal, because Mr. Selfridge was pretty scandalous.
Fashion succeeds as a business precisely because its obsolescence is inevitable.
Harry Gordon Selfridge was an American who came into retail prominence by hitching his horse to Marshall Field’s wagon in Chicago. Once he realized he had done all he could in Field’s shadow Harry moved his family to London and opened is own eponymous department store in 1909. Selfridge was showman who built the first modern department store which promoted shopping as a pleasurable experience. The biography details how fashion, and how people responded to fashion, changed throughout the early 20th century as well as the impact Harry Gordon Selfridge had on his chosen field.
A store should be like a song of which one never tires.
As promised, there is scandal; Harry had his fair share of flings with famous show girls during his marriage and lost hundreds of thousands of pounds to his gambling (and showgirl…) habit. His vices would eventually be his downfall but he had a spectacular run.
Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge is both an enjoyable read and a well researched history book; I learned a lot about how the ready to wear retail industry developed but it never felt like a textbook.